Of Failure and Redemption: When ‘Twit’ Happens

 

Social media and politics were made for each other. After all, when politicians get on their soapboxes, typically labeled CBS, NBC, ABC, CNN, FNN, et. al., the masses get on theirs named Facebook, LinkedIn, and yes, the insta-poll of all social media, Twitter. Here are two lessons for effective social media management– pre and post crisis.

By now, you’ve heard of KitchenAid‘s unfortunate social media faux-pas. During one of the biggest media events in the past four years this obviously unintended ugly tweet was issued from the@KitchenAid Twitter account: I say unintended because from the moment I saw the tweet, as someone who has manned multiple social media accounts for employers and clients, I knew exactly what happened.

Just about everyone who handles multiple social media accounts uses some kind of console, a social media content management system such as Hootsuite, Tweetdeck, or one of the other more sophisticated systems such as Sprout Social. I have no knowledge of which system the KitchenAid tweeter used (and keep in mind, it may not have even been a KitchenAid employee who did this, but someone at a social media agency) but I am certain s/he had both the KitchenAid account and a personal account loaded on the same tool, and simply forgot to switch from one to the other.

Lesson #1:
Don’t let employees, or agents, mix business and personal social media accounts on the same management tool.

Of course, the social media world exploded with criticism. But what happened next is a good primer for others on what to do when the Tweet hits the fan:.

Eight minutes later, the offending tweet was pulled and the first of a series of apology tweets were issued by Cynthia Soledad, the brand manager Click image to see larger version): This is a great example of digital damage control. No half-baked excuses. No “we were hacked” knee-jerk response. A quick reply, with apology, from a real person who can be contacted for more info.

Lesson #2:
Respond quickly, honestly and appropriately.

All of the above: brand damaging post on a social media site; remedial action; full accountability; full transparency — all leading to dousing the fire — happened in less that 2.5 hours.

In social media as in life, accidents will happen. KitchenAid’s response is a lesson for all.

 

Food for Thought: Adding Social Media to the Menu

After taking time off for summer adventures, misadventures and mishaps (fodder for future posts, no doubt) I came across an article written earlier this year by confessed social media neophyte Bruce Buscel on his attempts to secure PR services for his relatively new restaurant, Southfork Kitchen, located in New York’s vaunted Hamptons on Long Island’s east end. While restaurant centric in nature, there are  lessons to learn for all businesses, big and small, about how social media has changed the landscape for both marketing and public relations.

After two failed attempts to engage a PR firm to support his restaurant’s launch, first with  traditional PR firm that appeared to just go through the (unsuccessful) motions and another with a “foodie” led boutique firm which (on paper) would seem to have been a good fit but ultimately wanted to change the client rather than support it, Bruce  realized that:

“The old P.R. model is as useless as the fax machines on which press releases used to arrive.”

He decided to turn to media firms with expertise in social media. Surveying six of them, he came up with a digital dozen strategies for social media. From those, here are my top five social media strategies for all businesses (paraphrased):

  1. It’s a dialogue– listen and respond
    The first word in social media is “social”. It’s a dialogue, not a broadcast. Listen always; respond frequently; curate connections.
  2. Keep your social media activity current.
    The only thing worse than not being involved in social media is to allow your participation to go stale.
  3. Know your audience.
    Engage them where they already are participating online. Keep in mind that if your customer base is comprised of several distinct audiences that participate on different social networks you’ll need to tailor your content for each.
  4. Assess your progress regularly.
    Like any other business discipline, you need to plan strategy, execute tactics, assess results,  and then modify your plan as indicated. To do so you need to track KPI (Key Performance Indicators) relevant to your specific business and goals (likes, follows, time spent; service issues handled, sales/conversions, etc.) .
  5. Engage a social media pro to get you started and then plan long-term
    Bruce is not alone in wondering how to get up to speed on social media. my advice is, as always, hire a social media professional (one who has successfully been performing social media as a profession for a number of years) to get you started. Then, plan on who will take over that role long-term. Consider bringing your contracted pro in-house if it makes sense for you both.

Bruce concludes,

“What is the sound of irony? We are all in the P.R. business now.”

Indeed.

A New Year, But Same Rules for Social Media PR

Image courtesy of the Association of Web Design Professionals2011 was the year in which social media gained wider acceptance as a viable business tool. But in many ways th new year finds the chasm between Marketing and Communications over its use has grown wider.

I’ve written before about the ultimate goal for social media within the enterprise (see “Who Owns Social Media? Ultimate Answer: The Opposites”), but at the start of 2012 it seems (according to the job openings I have observed) that social media marketing is taking command, with calls for professionals experienced in social and viral marketing campaigns ruling the day.

So, when I found this article, The Do’s and Don’ts of Using Social Media in Crisis Communications, I noticed that despite the crisis communications spin of the headline the advice listed makes good sense for any company looking to leverage social media for Communications/PR. Briefly:

Dos
Accept social media as an ongoing tool; create a social media policy; trust and use your staff; plan on who and how to handle crisis communications; keep social media social – participate in the conversation; be honest; always think of your image.

Don’ts 
Try to ban social media use company wide – it won’t work; talk at you audience – engage with them;  try ti spin the message – insincerity is magnified (and readily apparent) online; keep your associates in the dark — keep them apprised and energized; mix corporate social media accounts with associates’ personal ones – accidents do happen.

Of course, the biggest “Do”: engage in social media. It’s a valuable cross-discipline tool for your entire organization.

image credit: association of web design professionals

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When Your PR Problem is Your PR Agency

Image representing Wikipedia as depicted in Cr...

A friend of mine got a job in the PR department of a large corporation, one that prides itself on the veracity of its products. It wasn’t long before s/he was pressured to “fix” information on Wikipedia that the company felt reflected poorly on its management. This is a “PR Fail.” Here’s why:

What critics and skeptics fail to realize is that Wikipedia is self-policing, with published policies and standards  — in particular regarding Conflicts of Interest (COI) — and about 100,000 regular editors who add or review. Try to game the system? You’ll succeed short-term but, eventually, you’ll be found out. The latest case in point: PR firm Bell Pottinger.

One of the largest lobbying firms in the UK, Bell Pottinger is under scrutiny for allegedly editing entries about its clients, violating Wikipedia’s COI (see article links, below). Worse, it apparently sees this as “business as usual”, stating:

I can’t see any bad headlines for our clients,” he told the BBC. “You won’t find anybody, including journalists, who doesn’t do exactly the same thing.” – Lord Bell, Chairman 

I disagree. Every client involved will suffer damage to its reputation. What Lord Bell fails to comprehend is that social media is a self-correcting organism. There’ll always be someone with the time and resources to ferret out the truth. Attempts to misrepresent or obfuscate information get discovered and the blowback is worse than facing the facts from the start.

This concept is nothing new. In 1596, Shakespeare wrote: “but at the length truth will out.” And, in a quote generally attributed to Abraham Lincoln, 1858, “you cannot fool all of the people all of the time“. My advice to organizations and individuals alike, is to conduct social media with accuracy, integrity and transparency. That’s how it works.

As for my friend, s/he left that company over a year ago, in part because of the lack of support for social media done right. But the all-too-often encountered attitude of PR bigwigs that social media is something to “handled” persists. So choose your digital PR firm wisely.

Oh, and that old saw about all PR is good PR? Hardly.

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When to Say “No” to Your Social Media Marketers

See photo credit belowMore and more people are calling themselves social media marketers these days,  so how do you know the one you are working with is giving you good advice?

As always, my recommendation is to first hire a social media professional (someone employed in social media for at least five years) as your in-house guide, watchdog and subject matter expert. Until then, here are four red-flag warning signs that you’re getting bad advice from your social media marketer: Read more of this post

Calling the News Corp. Situation a “PR Problem” Is Wrong

Rupert Murdoch - World Economic Forum Annual M...

Image by World Economic Forum via Flickr

I keep seeing the situation with Rupert Murdoch’s (photo right) News Corp. and the circumstances that led to its closing ‘The News of the World‘ (“NotW”) after 168 years referred to as a “PR problem.” That is just wrong.

Certainly, the unethical hacking activity into private citizen’s email and voicemail by NotW journalists is worthy of both scorn and retribution, legal and otherwise, but calling it a PR  problem implies that good PR practices could have mitigated or even prevented the consequences News Corp. continues to face. And that’s not true.

As with any crisis response, News Corp. needs to follow the Five A’s of crisis management (amended to six by me):

  1. Assess
  2. Admit
  3. Address
  4. Atone
  5. Adapt
  6. Abridge

No amount of “good PR” could’ve saved NotW, and it remains to be seen what the ultimate ramifications are for News Corp. It’s not a PR problem— it’s a PR issue.

Let’s not confuse the two. 

The Five “A”s of PR Crisis Management — Plus a Sixth

ap_anthony_weiner_presser_ll_110606_wgI came across a great article written by Jessica Klieman titled, “5 Tips for Handling a PR Crisis Like Weinergate” (in case you heaven’t heard, it’s the law that all political scandals must have a ‘-gate’ suffix ever since Nixonian times) that gives five tactics for what to do when bad private behavior goes public. I’d like to add a sixth.

Briefly (as Jessica does a great job describing each) the steps are:

  1. Assess – Objectively examine the situation to determine its “legs” and maximum potential impact.
  2. Admit – As I wrote previously, the truth will out. Once a secret is no longer a secret, own the message and ‘fess up.
  3. Address – A full ‘mes culpa’ is required. Make it complete of face the death of a thousand cuts.
  4. Atone – Make things as right as you can especially to those directly affected by your actions.
  5. Adapt – Have a game plan for what happens next. Note: the basis for any game plan should have already been designed as part of your crisis management contingency plan. Waiting until after the fur starts to fly is too late.

I’d add a sixth “A” – Abridge – state the facts; state your case; cover the five “A”s’ and retreat.

While thought noble to stand up and take the slings and arrows thrown your way (perhaps in an attempt to “get it all over with”), just as in most of life when it comes to crisis management, “less is more.” Find that sweet spot of enough time to cover your “A”s (so to speak) then leave. Cut things off too short you run the risk of coming across as abrupt, insincere and unrepentant. Stay too long, you maybe viewed as pathetic or pitiful (“Methinks the politico doth repent too much”). At his presser Weiner went on and on, repeating his message to repetitive questions that morphed from inquiry into condemnation. Is that the lasting image you want associated with an attempt to come clean?

Messed up? ‘Fess up; Retreat; Rebuild.

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